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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Larson

Why Are Parents Suddenly So Interested in Curriculum?

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

School curriculum has become a hot button in some communities recently. We’re seeing quite a bit of press around race and gender issues along with controversy regarding the books in our school libraries. Why are parents suddenly so interested in what our schools teach?

The most obvious reason is the pandemic. We are now in our third school year of pandemic learning and parents continue to have a front row seat into the daily lesson plans of their child’s classroom. A new poll by the Washington Post-ABC News (question 23) found that 81 percent of those surveyed felt parents should have at least some say in what their child’s school teaches.

Even before the pandemic, there was growing concern that schools are not adequately preparing our children for the future. As we highlighted in our blog last month, our nation’s most recent annual report card showed a decline in math and reading scores, for the first time in almost fifty years.

And there’s a third reason. Politics (although this is nothing new). The continued debate around school choice, parent choice, critical race theory and other polarizing topics have been key issues in many campaigns this fall.

With the recent uptick in headlines specifically pertaining to school curriculum, we’re doing a bit of a Curriculum 101 this week.

Recent School Curriculum Headlines

Education issues are no stranger to headline news. In the past we debated over how schools taught evolution, sex ed and school prayer. Then Common Core took center stage as we focused on creating a national set of standards for our public schools.

Some of the education issues making headlines this month -

Librarians Fight Book Bans With Twitter Takeover - EdSurge - November 18, 2021

Schools with LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed on the rise - K-12 Dive - October 20, 2021

Black parents say movement to ban critical race theory is ruining their children's education - CNN - December 2, 2021

Why Revamping the Way California Teaches Math Is So Contentious - KQED - November 22, 2021

Southlake school leader tells teachers to balance Holocaust books with 'opposing' views - NBC Nightly News - October 14, 2021

Who Makes the Decision About What Curriculum is Taught at Our Schools?

Traditionally, each state government creates a broad set of curriculum goals which determine what our students should learn. From there, the local school boards and district administrators have the biggest role in figuring out what curriculum is used in our schools.

As we shared in our blog last month, there are over 90,000 school board members in the U.S. serving more than 50 million public school children, and most members are elected by people in their community. A local school board is responsible for ensuring the students in their public schools receive the best education for the tax dollars spent. They have many duties, including developing and adopting policies and curriculum.

Teachers also have a role in the process since they are responsible for creating the daily lesson plans and also select reading materials, learning apps and develop classroom activities which support the curriculum.

With school curriculum being such a hot topic right now, you can understand why there was so much buzz around local school board elections last month.

Where Do I Learn More About the Curriculum Used at My Child’s School?

Trying to get a comprehensive list of curriculum used at your child’s school can be a daunting task. Here’s a few pointers to help get you started -

Ask Your Teacher - many teachers create an overview of the curriculum they use in their classroom for back to school nights held at the beginning of the school year. Search your school website, or perhaps ask your teacher, if this presentation is still available.

School or District Website - there is no requirement to publicly publish a list of reading materials and other learning resources used at school. However, some school and district leaders have taken the initiative to publish this information on their website (kudos to them!).

State Education Department Website - although your local state department is focused primarily on determining curriculum goals for their respective state, you can often find a list of approved curricular materials on their websites. This will give you an idea of what resources are available to the schools in your community.

American Library Association - if you’re interested in learning more about banned books, the ALA is a great resource. They receive reports from schools and libraries and have a list of books that are “frequently challenged.”

Join the Discussion

As we wrap up, I want to include a brief note on critical race theory (CRT). We know this is a highly debated topic in our schools right now. However CRT is not one textbook or a curricular resource you are going to find listed on a spreadsheet somewhere. It is a philosophy that has been discussed among academia since the 1970’s. You can learn more in this blog, “13 important points in the campus & K-12 ‘critical race theory’ debate.”

Have questions about the curriculum your school is using? Drop us a note!

About the Author

Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.

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